Writer & Eternal Student

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ORCs and But...

Published: May 10, 2012

Do you give ORCs? ORC stands for obligatory reciprocal compliments. You know when you’re receiving an ORC. I don’t know about you, but ORCs feel empty and seemingly insincere.

Not all ORCs are insincere, however. I’ve noticed folks who have a difficult time receiving and accepting compliments often respond with an obligatory reciprocal compliment. Here’s an example.

I know a woman who wears her age extremely well. She wears it so well that during the first year of our acquaintance, I studied her face searching for signs of her age. I never found it.

We recently gave her a birthday card that mentioned something to the effect that she wasn’t trying hard enough to age. I mean this woman really looks great for her age (or any age for that matter).

She falls into the category of not being able to receive or accept compliments so she responded with the ORC, “You look good for your age too.” One of the most obvious ORCs is a compliment with the word “too” added at the end.



ORCs have a similar effect as the word ‘but.’ The statements spoken or written after the word but lose their effect because but negates everything that came before it. Obligatory reciprocal compliments negate or diminish everything that comes after it.

A but example: Your book was great but the main character needed a little more spice.

C’mon, how great can the book be with a vapid main character?

ORCs vs. Buts

ORCs are a reflection of the giver and buts puts the onus on the receiver. Instead of an ORC, the giver could dig a little deeper to share how and why the compliment is deserved (i.e., beauty tip, shopping tip, etc). Or a simple, “Thank you” would suffice.

But statements, on the other hand, can go one of two ways. If the person receiving the ‘but’ statement has a difficult time with critiques (or the but is totally unfounded) the conversation could quickly deteriorate into a he-said-she-said superficial argument. Or, the but statement could open a doorway to explore a potential problem and correct it (such as how to spruce up the insipid main character).

To conclude this rambling, as a habit I try to stay away from giving empty ORCs and I try my best to use buts judiciously.

About the Author: I am Felicia A. Williams, a wife, mom, grandma, writer and eternal student.

Last Modified: 28 November 2020

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